Committee chairman admits ‘we need to be better’ after cost rockets for Dutch style roundabout in Cambridge - first of its kind in the UK

Dutch style roundabout was opened by the Vice-chairwoman of Cambridgeshire County Council, Cllr Lis

Dutch style roundabout was opened by the Vice-chairwoman of Cambridgeshire County Council, Cllr Lis Every. Also present were Cllr Ian Bates, Chairman of the Highways and Transport Committee; local County Councillor Amanda Taylor, cycling champion County Cllr Noel Kavanagh, Cambridge City Councillor for Queen Edith’s Colin McGerty and Koen Guiking from the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. - Credit: Archant

A new Dutch-style roundabout – that blew its original budget through the roof – opened today (July 31).

Cambridgeshire County Council revealed the cost of the roundabout in Cambridge has risen from £1.4million in 2016, to £1.5million last year and to £2.4million now.

However even that bottom end estimate doesn’t tell the whole story since in 2018 the county council issued a press statement stating the cost to be £800,000.

They revealed the Department of Transport had awarded them £550,000 for the scheme whilst a section 106 contribution of £250,000 would meet the total cost.

Independent city council candidate Sam Davies wrote on her blog: “The lack of visibility around the expenditure on this project (who knew what when, and by what process increases were signed off) and the reluctance to share information proactively is extremely corrosive to public trust.

“Many people who have followed this saga over the last four years will never again take at face value assurances from officers or councillors that appropriate project costing and ongoing management is in place.”

The county council will review how it carries out project management and cost estimates for infrastructure work following a “huge” time and cost delay on the Dutch-style roundabout in Cambridge.

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Councillor Amanda Talyor described it as a “huge financial overspend”

The roundabout – at the junction of Queen Edith’s Way, Fendon Road and Mowbray Road in Cambridge - has an outer ring for cyclists, in a contrasting red surface, to give them equal priority with pedestrians over oncoming vehicles.

The junction is on an important cycle commuter route for Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge Biomedical Campus, Long Road Sixth Form College, Cambridge Academy for Science and Technology, schools, colleges and nurseries in the Hills Road area and the expanding ARM site on Fulbourn Road.

The initial design of the Fendon Road / Queen Edith’s Way / Mowbray Road roundabout was developed with the help of Dutch consultancy firms Royal HaskoningDHV and Mobycon.

Among those at today’s opening was Koen Guiking from the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

A council spokesman said “The old roundabout was perceived by many people to be dangerous to cycle around, and residents also reported feeling unsafe when walking in the area due to a lack of pedestrian crossings.”

The council’s project manager, Grant Weller, told the highways and transport committee on July 7 that there were two major issues relating to the overspend and time overrun: Covid-19 and unforeseen underground utilities infrastructure.

He said there were “major challenges around locating underground utilities”. A council report says that “soon after commencing construction, substantial additional utility work, including BT and UKPN cabling, elements of which were not previously identified by either company were discovered”.

Councillor Lynda Harford said the council should seek compensation from utility companies.

She asked: “Do we not have any recourse to claiming compensatory contribution to additional costs incurred when utilities companies haven’t accurately advised the existence of their installations and these are subsequently found to provide costly obstacles to construction?”

She said the county council should be “much more robust in claiming compensation from organisations that cause it such huge additional costs”.

“This happens so frequently,” she said, adding “I really do think that this is something that we have really got to get to grips with”.

Committee chairman, Cllr Ian Bates said that work is underway to look at how the council estimates costs and risks, including in its dealings with utilities companies.

“I am in discussion with Steve Cox [the council’s director of place and economy] on the issues of how we manage project management throughout the county,” he said, adding that “we need to be better at that”.

He committed to bringing a paper addressing the concerns to the committee “at some point” following those discussions.

The service director for highways and transport, Graham Hughes, said: “There is a piece of work well underway that officers are working very closely with other colleagues across the county to do that.”

Cllr Bates also committed to completing the other projects as part of the scheme, including works to make Cherry Hinton Road safer for pedestrians and cyclists, although he did not specify where the funding would come from or give a time frame.